Communist Party of Australia

We acknowledge the Sovereignty of the First Nations’ Peoples.

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Issue #1521      5 October 2011

Carbon Tax Roundtable

On September 27 at the Teachers Union headquarters in Perth about 30 people gathered to hear the panel of WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, Conservation Council of WA director Piers Verstegen, State School Teachers Union secretary Tony Mullen and Socialist Alliance organiser Alex Bainbridge present their arguments for and against the Carbon Tax and whether it would deliver a climate change solution. The forum was chaired by Communist Party of Australia State President Elizabeth Hulm.

Alex Bainbridge opened the discussion by outlining the urgency of the climate change situation that confronted the planet and that the Clean Energy Future package which included the Carbon Tax “is so far removed from what is necessary that it amounts to nothing.” Bainbridge added that “It was a false argument politically to suggest that if we don’t pass this package then the Gillard government will collapse and we will get Liberal leader Tony Abbott and the climate change deniers.” Instead Bainbridge offered, “The climate movement should call the shots by putting pressure on both conservative parties for if we fear a future of Abbott then Gillard will do nothing.”

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam countered this by posing the polemic, “Where or who is the climate movement as there are only individual activists and various activist groups and non-government organisations.” If anything Ludlam suggested the only climate movement that existed was one being run by Tony Abbott on behalf of the coal and gas producers. Ludlam reminded the forum that during the first Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme those who supported it were painted as extremists who were going to sabotage jobs and the economy.

Piers Verstegen continued on from Senator Ludlam’s proposition by suggesting, “Our support for the Clean Future package does not lock out future reform-while not locking it in either”. Though it is not a perfect package Verstegen added, “It is the most important environmental policy in this nation’s history, as this policy starts us on our path of fundamental structural change of economy to achieve our environmental and ecological goals.”

Teachers Union secretary Tony Mullen spoke of the importance of teachers teaching children about the environment and sustainability. The education which they currently receive however, which is thrust upon them through the curriculum determined by government, often does not encourage critical thinking. “If we are not being taught to think critically at the right time when confronted with the pressing problems of our times we cannot come up with the appropriate responses or solutions.”

A lively Q & A followed which included a few eminent figures in the audience as the former Greens Senator Jo Vallentine who suggested that technology had changed the way in which social and political activism was perceived re: Get Up! and others. “People think they are activists when they push a few buttons on a computer.” Vallentine, the veteran of many anti-nuke, anti-logging, and anti-war campaigns added, “We need to talk about change, real change and the need to act to bring about this change.”

Maverick economics academic from Curtin University Dr Dave Western who led his own Carbon Tax forum earlier this year declared that there are “Twenty-five topics here and we haven’t talked about carbon yet.” Western also said that the struggle to bring about real change on the climate issue amounts to class warfare ... the owners of the means of production versus the workers.

It is an urgent struggle as noted by National CPA President Vinicio Molina, “The planet cannot wait another 10-15 years.”

As the last urgent discussions carried on well into the night as people left the forum one could sense that the issue of climate change had a long path still to run and that it was forums such as the CPA’s roundtable which would bring diverse and passionately expressed ideas into the public policy debate arena.

It also demonstrated that there is a space for a united socialist left to participate and contribute to this public policy formation.  

Next article – Future jobs forum must focus on manufacturing

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